Today, a majority of consumers are at least three generations removed from the daily practices on our family beef farms. Regardless, they still expect all food products derived from animals to be safe and wholesome for their families. These expectations have recently expanded to include methods of verifying that all animals raised for food are handled and cared for properly, from the gate to their plate.

The mission of the beef checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Program is to maximize consumer confidence and acceptance of beef by focusing attention on daily production practices that influence the safety, wholesomeness, and quality of beef and beef products through the use of science, research, and education initiatives. The importance of producer participation in the BQA certification program is paramount to the longevity of our industry to build consumer trust and ultimately, beef demand (a consumer’s willingness to pay for a product.)

If you supply fed cattle to Tyson you should have received a letter this summer notifying you about the rollout of their FarmCheck™ program. Through this site check-focused program, Tyson is upholding their commitment to well-being, proper handling and humane slaughter of animals that produce Tyson meat and poultry. The complete Tyson FarmCheck™ program involves on-farm animal welfare site checks, and verification of Beef Supply Chain Animal Handling Training, which was developed utilizing beef checkoff-funded BQA guidelines.

Site checks are now occurring in Iowa at feedyards across the state. I want to make sure you are ready when your Tyson cattle buyer notifies you of your upcoming site check. To be prepared, please review the summary below of the FarmCheck program™requirements. I encourage you to also make use of the BQA animal well-being resources below, and if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at doug@iabeef.org.

Tyson FarmCheck™ Document Requirements

  • Documentation that exhibits Site Manager is BQA-certified within the last three years.
  • Records that show Site Caretakers responsible for independent animal handling at the site have had animal handling training.
  • Annually completed BQA Feedyard Site Assessment which may be conducted by feedyard management or a third party such as Extension or your Veterinarian; however, the Site Self-Check must be completed by the feedyard management.

Tyson FarmCheck™ Animal Welfare Requirements

  • A Euthanasia Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is in place at the site.
  • All animals have access to water and feed. General animal welfare conditions are provided.
  • Confined systems must have daily observations for each animal and pen.
  • Direct observations are made for water availability, provision of feed, major injuries requiring attention, lameness, open wounds or abscesses, facility and equipment hazards, etc., and environmental conditions that may affect the animals’ general well-being.
  • Observe all populated pens including grow/finish pens or areas, processing areas, loading/unloading pens, hospital pens, etc.
  • Group Movement Code – If able, assess one group of market-ready cattle and assess Group Movement

Tyson FarmCheck™ Animal Handling Elements

  • Animal Handling Practices may be observed focusing on times cattle are being moved or handled during processing and/or load/unload
  • Additionally chute-side observations may be made to verify proper animal handling.
  • Willful acts or actions of animal abuse is unacceptable.

What are your next steps?

1. If you are not currently BQA Certified, attend a face-to-face certification in your area or get certified online for free at www.animalcaretraining.org using the passcode: BIVIBQA until April 15, 2015.

  • Select Beef Quality Assurance & Cattle Care
  • Select Comprehensive Beef Quality Assurance
  • If outside the free certification period, contact the State BQA Coordinator Doug Bear at doug@iabeef.org or 515-296-2305 for an additional passcode to get certified.

2. Videos on effective stockmanship for site caretaker animal handling training

3. The BQA Feedyard Site Assessment may be downloaded at http://www.bqa.org/assessments.aspx or http://www.iabeef.org/beefqualityassurance.aspx

  • All SOPs are located within the BQA Feedyard Assessment manual, but may also be downloaded in Word Document format from: http://www.iabeef.org/beefqualityassurance.aspx
  • Ensure the Euthanasia SOP is completed and up-to-date to ensure your operation is prepared for a swift response in the event of a decision from management/veterinarian.

4. Videos on facility design are located at: http://www.bqa.org/bqafacilitiesdesign.aspx.

5. Additional training resources and specific details may be found at: